This is my first time to incubate eggs with an incubator:
I recently purchased some ameraucana pullets from a fellow BYC member, Mahonri, and found out that the eggs they were laying that first week were still fertile (he has roosters - I don't). I decided I wanted to hatch these eggs, but didn't want to spend a lot of money for an incubator for just this one batch of eggs and needed something ASAP (this week).
After looking at some really nice homemade incubators other BYC members had made, I decided to make my own. But... I didn't have much time. Since the eggs were already being laid daily and fertility could run out soon, I had to figure out something fast (& cheap). We didn't have any coolers available and I saw that Lolligee had successfully used an aquarium to incubate her duck eggs.
Since we already had a 10 gallon aquarium sitting in our shed, but no coolers, the aquarium seemed like a good option for us.
Materials used that we already owned:
10 gallon aquarium
metal grate (to keep eggs above the water dish)
mesh lid from smaller aquarium (placed on top of grate for more stability)
dish for water
fan from an old PC
adaptor from our big box of extra ones (12 volt output)
rocks (for stabilizing heat)
bubble wrap & styrofoam packing (for insulation)
plexiglass (for lid)
towel (lid insulation)
3/4" pvc pipe
hot glue gun
postal or duct tape (for taping styrofoam to the outside and taping the funnel to the tubing)
cardboard/paper for covering light
Materials I purchased (about $27 total - all from WalMart):
lamp socket dimmer (a water heater thermostat might be an even better option)
2 thermometer / humidity monitors (make sure to test / calibrate them before using)
75 watt lightbulb (using dimmer on it)
small plastic funnel
My husband was out of town and trying to wire a hot water thermostat and light together seemed daunting, so I opted to use a dimmer on my worklight instead (no wiring involved). Using the dimmer takes trial & error plus patience to get to just the right temp. It also requires monitoring to make sure that the temps don't vary too much - placing the incubator in a room with a steady temperature will keep the temps stable.
PC fan wired to adaptor
I used a hot glue gun to attach 3/4" pvc pipe to the bottoms of the egg cartons for turning the eggs.
I started out with 2 brand new thermometers/hydrometers and my meat thermometer to test accuracy - I didn't trust having just one thermometer. I am now using the two new thermometers, which are giving me 3 temp readings & 2 humidity readings. The acurite is actually 2 thermometers in one - it has a separate wired sensor so that you can read the temps in two different areas of the incubator. The white one is a springfield. Ignore the 125 degree reading - I first tried using the sensor in a soap filled egg - didn't work in a wet environment- the sensor went crazy, but after several hours started working perfectly again.
The thermometer next to the light/heat source was hotter than the other areas, so I place a piece of very thick cardboard type paper in front of it to deflect the heat. The bubble wrap idea was taken from Lolligee's page (for insulation). It didn't seem like enough for my set-up, so I taped some styrofoam to the 2 sides and the back of the aquarium (see the left side in the pic). Now the 3 readings are very close - the heating is even throughout. The light is in the front corner & the fan is in that back corner - at an angle. I didn't know how to attach it to glass, so it is taped to one of the warming rocks (for height). I ended up putting the rock on top of some duplos to make it even higher.
In trying to stabilize the temps after adding the eggs, I felt that we were losing too much heat through the glass since the light was so close, so we taped another piece of styrofoam in front of the light to keep that heat from escaping - still have plenty of viewing area. The top is plexiglass with a towel over it (I just happened to have some plexiglass that fit - the towel is for extra insulation). The funnel is taped to the tubing which runs to the dish and allows me to add water without opening the lid. The rocks help hold the heat when I do need to open the lid for turning
This pic shows the opening at the top (thin strip of mesh) which is my ventilation opening - I can place something over part of it during the last 3 days to increase humidity if I need to.
I ended up buying some more eggs from Mahonri and now have 22 eggs in the bator (1 golden cuckoo marans, real ameraucanas, easter eggers, and a couple polish bred to an ameraucana). I'm very excited to see these chicks! Most of the eggs are blue, but look a bit green in the pics because of the yellow light in the incubator. I'm very excited (my first incubator hatch ever) and will update this page in 3 weeks.
Day 18 - lockdown - I decided I wanted to keep my pure ameraucanas separated from the ameraucana mixes and easter eggers for easier identification later on. I washed and sterilized a garden rack from a nursery and then cut it to make a hatching tray. I made a divider between the two type of eggs and another divider to keep the chicks from running into the fan and the light. This tray sits on top of the metal grate so the chicks' feet don't fall through.
In this pic, you can see the 6" x 10" water pan underneath plus a large sponge I used to raise the humidity. At lockdown, I filled the water pan and then put my water tube into the sponge so that I could add water there when needed. Water ended up all over the bottom of the aquarium which was fine - gave me an extra large surface for water.
The 1st chick came at 7:15 p.m. on day 20, the rest of the chicks came on day 21 & day 22.
After 12 hours alone, the first chick was so happy to have a buddy.
Even though I had a fan running the entire time, I think the eggs closest to the light during lockdown were warmer. They started hatching first. Finally, we have some from the other side. One egg from each side didn't hatch.
The 3 weeks are up and 16 out of 20 fertile eggs have hatched. I tossed out two eggs due to blood rings before day 10, which left 18 eggs to put into lockdown on day 18. Out of those 18, we have 16 healthy chicks. One chick had pipped at the wrong end of the shell and didn't make it. Another chick was fully developed, but never pipped.Update:
Homemade Incubator 2
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